From Safety to Startups: Lessons Learned from Reconsidering Options

From Safety to Startups: Lessons Learned from Reconsidering Options

When I arrived at Booth and began recruiting discussions the clearest thought I had was no startups. Growing up in the Bay Area I had seen enough of them start and fail. They didn’t seem stable enough and I love stability. 

So, I pursued what are typically considered the stable routes…consulting, corporate strategy, and big tech. Yet none of these routes led to a good match for me. Then I caught up with a friend who worked at a late-stage drone startup and she offered to make an introduction. A month later, I signed my offer.

I spent this summer working remotely for Skydio, an American drone manufacturer based in Redwood City, CA, as a Marketing Producer Intern, which means I was a project manager for the creative team. The creative team within a marketing department is the group that makes the cool content that potential customers see–think website designs, YouTube videos, and anything from a company’s social media or targeted ads. 

My main project for the summer was called localization. What’s localization? For our context, it meant facilitating the translation of our website, marketing materials, customer support resources, legal documents, and product packaging into multiple languages across four continents so we could begin marketing and selling globally. Small ask and totally doable in 10 weeks, right?

Ok, maybe not. It turns out that there’s quite a bit involved with launching a global marketing initiative, but by the end of week 10 I had all of its building blocks in place and tackled a few other projects along the way.

Here were some of the highlights of my time at Skydio:

  • Creating a database of all marketing content, complete with dashboards, that the Chief Marketing Officer uses to report to his C-suite level peers about marketing activities
  • Building models to create comparisons across vendor pricing plans and aid in contract negotiations
  • Building a pitch deck for senior managers to present the Chief Operating Officer to approve company’s first localization vendor
  • Facilitating collection and prioritization of content to be localized from five teams 

But internships are so much more than the list of accomplishments we can tout at the end of our short stays. They are also more than a return offer or signing bonus to spend on late-summer travel. They are industry lessons and experiments in what our post-graduate life can look like.

It’s not often that you get to test-run a major life decision. 

If you’re considering startups or tech in general, here are some of the upsides that they can hold:

  • Normal working hours. Yes, there are some late nights, but your weekends are your own and it is unlikely that you’ll get a “pls fix” text during your morning workout or while enjoying a midweek dinner with friends. 
  • Constant new opportunities. See something you want to try, or an area you’d like to see the company explore, or have a skill you’d like to develop? Tell your manager and you’ll likely get the chance to own the initiative. With small, young companies there’s less red tape to stop you and go-getters are valued.
  • You can see what you work on. Some people derive professional satisfaction or fulfillment from having something physical to show for their work, and in the modern workforce this can be hard to find. I can assure you that the drones were very solid and it was incredible to watch them fly.
  • Office snacks. On a lighter note, tech companies like to feed people. This is the last time I’ll be able to own the college-students-love-free-food stereotype and I shamelessly leaned into it. 

However, I’m not writing about my experience to convince you to join a startup. It’s not for everyone, and that’s for the better because we need people running the successful former startups that are now giant companies. 
I am writing about my experience to encourage you to consider your planned path–or the path you are determined to avoid may change over time.

While we all want Plan A to go perfectly, remember that if or when it doesn’t work out it is not a sign of failure. It may even lead you somewhere better. Wherever you do land will be where you are meant to be in that moment. When in doubt, stay calm and don’t be afraid to reconsider options you may have ruled out at first glance.

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